In 2018, a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona was killed after being struck by a self-driving Uber vehicle. According to the New York Times, the safety driver, who was watching a video on her phone at the time of the accident, has been charged with negligent homicide.
The crash is believed to be the first involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian. Because of that, it raised questions about fault and accountability. There are few state and federal laws that govern liability for accidents involving self-driving vehicles, which is why an Arizona prosecutors’ office said Uber would not face criminal liability for the accident in 2019.
Rafaela Vasquez, who worked for Uber and was overseeing the autonomous vehicle at the time of the accident, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court. According to investigators, she was watching a video on her phone and did not brake until it was too late. At the time of the crash, the vehicle was traveling 40 miles per hour when it hit Elaine Herzberg. Herzberg was walking her bicycle across the street.
When the National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident, it attributed the crash mostly to human error; however, it also faulted an inadequate safety culture at Uber. At this time, Uber has not commented on the charge against Vasquez. Maricopa County attorney, Allister Adel, released the following statement: “Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community. When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a responsibility to control and operate that vehicle safely and in a law-abiding manner.
As a result of the crash, Uber temporarily stopped testing its self-driving vehicle. When the vehicles returned to roadways nearly a year later, lower speeds and greater restrictions were implemented. While there have not been any fatal accidents since the incident in Arizona, it’s important for Uber safety drivers to always be alert and prepared when behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a crash with an Uber vehicle, self-driving or otherwise, the Rideshare Law Group can help. We represent accident victims on a nationwide basis, and we’re prepared to take your case on next. To learn more or to get started on your claim, contact us today.